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Sending and Receiving Mail

Now that your accounts are finally set up properly, you can send and receive messages. The process works this way.

Receiving email

Receiving email is dead simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Mail icon in the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s Home screen.

    Mail checks for new messages when you first launch the application. If you have new messages, the device downloads them.

    When you launch the Mail app, by default you see the Mailboxes screen (Figure 4.8), which contains two sections: Inboxes and Accounts. In the Inboxes section, you see all the email accounts set up on your iPhone or iPod touch, plus the All Inboxes entry, which lets you view all received messages regardless of the accounts they were received from. The Accounts section also lists all email accounts on your device. Next to each entry in both areas is a number that indicates the number of unread messages—Gmail 18, for example.

    Figure 4.8

    Figure 4.8. The Mail app’s Mailboxes screen.

  2. Tap All Inboxes or an account name in the Inboxes section.

    If you tap one of the items in the Inboxes section, you’ll be taken to an Inbox screen that displays all the messages in that account’s inbox. Messages appear in a list, with the most recently received messages at the top. Unread messages have a blue dot next to them. Messages with attachments bear a paper-clip icon. Threaded messages display a number indicating the number of messages that make up the thread. Finally, the Inbox heading has a number in parentheses next to it—Inbox (22), for example. That (22) means that you have 22 unread messages.

    This screen also bears a Compose icon in the bottom-right corner and a Retrieve icon in the bottom-left corner. Tap Retrieve to check for new mail.

    An Edit button in the top-right corner of the All Inboxes screen lets you delete, move, or mark messages. Tap it, and all the messages in the list acquire a dim gray circle, which marks messages that you want to delete, move, or mark. Tap one of these circles, and a red check icon appears within it. Continue tapping messages until you’ve selected all the messages you’d like to delete, move, or mark; then tap the Delete button at the bottom of the screen. All the messages you selected move to the Trash.

    Tap Move, and a Mailboxes sheet scrolls up from the bottom, listing all available mailboxes for that account. Choose a mailbox, and the selected messages move to it. This move feature is really useful only if you’re using an IMAP account, as unlike POP accounts, IMAP accounts can have additional folders for filing email messages.

    Finally, when you select messages and tap Mark, you’re offered the option to flag the messages or mark them as read. When you flag messages, a small orange flag appears next to the messages’ text preview, indicating that the message is marked. Tapping Mark As Read does exactly that. To unflag a message, just tap Edit, tap the gray circle next to it, and tap Mark again; then tap Unflag in the resulting sheet.

  3. Tap an account name in the Accounts area.

    You see all the mailboxes that make up that account. For POP accounts, those mailboxes include Inbox, Drafts (if you’ve saved any composed messages without sending them), Sent (if you’ve sent any messages from that account), and Trash (if you’ve deleted any messages from that account). For IMAP accounts, you’ll most likely see Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Trash, and any folders associated with the account—folders that you’ve added to an iCloud or Gmail account, for example.

    These folder names, however, depend entirely on what the host service calls them. Gmail, for example, gathers the messages you’ve sent in the Sent Mail folder (Figure 4.9).

    Figure 4.9

    Figure 4.9. A Gmail account screen.

New with iOS 5 is the ability to create new mailboxes on an iOS device. To do that, just tap an IMAP account in the Accounts list (such as a Gmail account); tap the Edit button in the top-right corner of the device’s screen; and then tap the New Mailbox button in the bottom-right corner of the screen. In the Edit Mailbox screen that appears, name your new mailbox, and choose a location for it by tapping the Mailbox Location field. Tap Save when you’re done.

In the bottom-right corner of an account screen, you see a Compose icon. Tap it, and a New Message screen appears, along with the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s keyboard. I talk about creating new messages in “Creating and sending email” later in this chapter.

Navigating the Message screen

Simple though it may be, the Message screen packs a punch. In it, you find not only standard email elements such as From and To fields, Subject, and message body, but also icons for adding contacts and for filing, trashing, replying to, and forwarding messages. The screen breaks down this way.

Before the body

The top of the Message screen displays the number of messages in the mailbox as well as the number of the displayed message—2 of 25, for example. Tap the up or down arrow to the right to move quickly to the previous or next message in the mailbox (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10. Message body with document attached.

Below that, you see From and To fields. Each field displays at least one contact name or email address (one of which could be your own) in a blue bubble. Tap one of these bubbles, and if the name or address is in your device’s Contacts directory, you’re taken to its owner’s Info screen. If the name or address isn’t among your contacts, a new screen appears, offering you the option of emailing the person, creating a new contact, or adding the address to an existing Contacts entry (Figure 4.11). By now, if you’ve been following along, you understand how to create a new contact as well as edit an existing contact.

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11. An unknown contact’s Info screen.

You can hide the To field by tapping the Hide entry near it. This action hides all the To fields in all the messages in all your accounts, and it changes the Hide entry to Details. To expose the To fields again, just tap Details.

Below the From and To fields is the message subject, followed by the date. If you have details showing, you also see a Mark entry. Tap this entry, and you can choose to flag it or mark it as unread.

Body talk

Finally, in the body area of the message, are the pithy words you’ve been waiting for. Just as in your computer’s email client, you see the text of the message in this area. Quoted text appears with a vertical line to its left—or more than one line, depending on how many quote layers the message has. If a message has several quote layers, each layer is a different color.

If the message has attachments, they appear below the message text (Figure 4.12). When Cousin Bill sends you a photo from his latest vacation, for example, it appears here.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12. Message with attached photo.

URLs, email addresses, and phone numbers contained within messages appear as live blue hyperlinks. Tap a URL, and Safari launches and takes you to that Web page. Tap an email address, and a new email message opens with that address in the To field. On the iPhone, a tapped phone number fires up the Phone app so you can call that number. On the iPod touch, tapping a phone number causes a sheet to appear; in it, you see the options Create New Account and Add to Existing Contact.

The tools below

The toolbar at the bottom of the screen contains five icons (refer to Figure 5.12):

Retrieve. Tap this circular icon, and the device checks for new messages in that account.

Mailboxes. When you tap the Mailboxes icon, you’re presented with a list of all the mailboxes associated with that account. Tap one of these mailboxes, and the message is filed there. (This method is one way to move items out of the Trash, though the Trash screen also includes a Move button.)

Trash/Archive. Again, whether you see a Trash or Archive icon depends on the kind of account you’re using. A POP account shows a Trash icon, whereas most IMAP accounts offer an Archive icon. Tap this icon to toss the message in the Trash or file it in an archive.

Send. The left-arrow icon is your pathway to the Reply, Reply All, Forward, Save Image, Print, and Cancel commands (Figure 4.13). It’s unlikely that you’ll see all these options in one sheet, because the items that appear depend on the number of recipients and on whether an image is attached.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13. The Reply sheet.

When you tap the Send icon and then the Reply button in the resulting sheet, a new message appears, with the Subject heading Re: Original Message Subject, in which Original Message Subject is...well, you know. The message is addressed to the sender of the original message, and the insertion point awaits at the top of the message body. The original text is quoted below. The message is mailed from the account you’re working in.

If a message you received was sent to multiple recipients, tapping Reply All lets you reply to all the recipients of the original message.

Tap Forward, and you’re responsible for filling in the To field in the resulting message. You can type it yourself with the keyboard that appears or tap the plus (+) icon to add a recipient from your device’s list of contacts. This message bears Fwd: at the beginning of the Subject heading, followed by the original heading. The original message’s From and To fields appear at the top of the message as quoted text followed by the original message.

If a message has images attached to it, you see a Save x Images button, where x is the number of images. (The button reads Save Image if there’s just one image.) Tap that button, and the images are added to the Camera Roll collection in the Photos application.

Devices running iOS 5 are capable of printing to compatible wireless printers (see Chapter 10 for sneakier ways). If you have such a printer, tap Print to print the message.

Compose. Last is your old friend the Compose icon. Tap it, and a New Message screen appears, ready for your input.

Creating and sending email

If it truly is better to give than receive, the following instructions for composing and delivering mail from your iPhone or iPod touch should enrich your life significantly. With regard to email, these devices can give nearly as good as they get. Here’s how to go about it.

As I mention earlier in the chapter, you can create new email messages by tapping the Compose icon that appears in every account and mailbox screen. To create a message, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Compose icon.

    By default, Mail fills the From field with the address for this account. (If you tap the Compose icon in the Mailboxes screen, the message is sent from the account selected as the default account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen.) But you needn’t use that account. Just tap From, and any other email accounts you have appear in a scrolling list. Tap the one you want.

  2. In the New Message screen that appears, type the recipient’s email address; tap the plus icon next to the To field; or, if you have an iPhone 4S, tap the Microphone button and say the name of the person you want to send the message to.

    When you place the insertion point in the To or Cc/Bcc field, notice that the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s keyboard adds @ and period (.) characters where the spacebar usually resides. (The spacebar is still there; it’s just smaller.) This feature makes typing addresses easier because you don’t have to switch to the numbers-and-symbols keyboard.

    When you start typing a name, the device suggests recipients based on entries in your list of contacts (Figure 4.14). If the recipient you want appears in the list below the To field, tap that name to add it to the field.

    Figure 4.14

    Figure 4.14. Begin typing to find a contact.

    When you tap the plus icon, your list of contacts appears. Navigate through your contacts, and tap the one you want to add to the To field. Some contacts may have multiple email addresses; tap the one you’d like to use. To add more names to the To field, type them or tap the plus icon to add them.

    To delete a recipient, tap that person’s address and then tap the Delete key on the device’s keyboard.

  3. If you’d like to Cc or Bcc someone, tap the appropriate field (Cc or Bcc) and then use any of the techniques in step 2 to add the recipient.
  4. Tap the Subject field, and enter a subject for your message with the keyboard (or a Bluetooth keyboard, if you’ve configured the device to use one).

    That subject replaces New Message at the top of the screen.

  5. Tap inside the message body (or, if the insertion point is in the Subject field, tap Return on the keyboard to move to the message body), and type your message—or, if you have an iPhone 4, dictate the message by tapping the Microphone button, speaking, and then tapping Done.
  6. Format your text, if you want.

    Another new iOS 5 feature is the ability to format your text (lightly). Just select some text in the message body, using the technique I outline in Chapter 1, and in the bubble that appears, tap the right-pointing triangle. Then tap the BIU icon and choose Bold, Italics, or Underline to format the text exactly that way.

  7. Tap Send to send the message or Cancel to save or delete your message.

    The Send icon, in the top-right corner, is easy enough to understand. Tap that icon, and the message is sent from the current account. You’ll know that it’s been sent when you hear a swoosh sound (unless you’ve switched off the Sent Mail sound in the Sounds setting, of course).

    Cancel is a little more confusing. If you’ve typed anywhere in the To field, the New Message screen’s Subject field, or the message body (even if you subsequently deleted everything you typed), a sheet rolls up when you tap Cancel, displaying Delete Draft, Save Draft, and Cancel buttons. Tap Delete Draft to do just that. Tap Save Draft to store the message in the account’s Drafts mailbox. (If no such mailbox exists, the iPhone or iPod touch creates one.) If you tap Cancel, the device assumes that you made a mistake when you tapped Cancel the first time, and it removes this sheet.

    If the device can’t send a message—when you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi network, for example—it creates an outbox for the account from which you’re trying to send the message. When you next use Mail and are able to send the message, the iPhone or iPod touch makes the connection and sends any messages in the outbox, at which point the outbox disappears.

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